Thursday, 21 August 2014

Tarte au citron - Great British Bake Off

My mom loves the tarte au citron from Paul patisserie. The Great British Bake Off tarte au citron recipe is as good as any I have tried previously. Mary Berry shares her secrets for a classic lemon tart. It can be made up to two days in advance, but don’t decorate it until just before serving.
Tarte au citron recipe

A Winning Tarte au Citron Recipe:

Prep time: 1-2 hours
Cooking time: 30 mins to 1 hour
Serves 8

Pastry Ingredients:

175g/6oz plain flour
100g/3½oz cold butter, cut into small cubes
25g/1oz icing sugar
1 free-range egg yolk
1 tbsp cold water

Citron Filling Ingredients: 

5 free-range eggs
125ml/4fl oz double cream
225g/8oz caster sugar
4 organic lemons, juice and zest
Icing sugar for dusting

Pastry Method:

1. Place the flour, butter and icing sugar into a food processor. Pulse briefly until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs, then add the egg yolk and water. 

2. Pulse again until the mixture sticks together in clumps then tip onto a work surface and gather it into a ball with your hands. Knead the pastry just two or three times to make it smooth. If your butter was a bit too soft, the pastry might be too. If so, wrap it in parchment paper and chill for 15 minutes. 

3. Grease a 23cm/9in loose-bottomed, fluted tart tin. 

4. Lay a piece of parchment paper on the work surface. Remove the base from the tart tin and lay it on the paper. Using a pencil, draw a circle onto the paper 4cm/1½in bigger than the tin base. 

5. Dust the base of the tin with flour. Place the pastry ball in the centre of the tin base and flatten it out slightly. Roll out the pastry, still on the base, until it meets the circle mark. As you are rolling out, turn the pastry by turning the paper. Gently fold the pastry surrounding the tin base in towards the centre. 

6. Carefully lift the tin base off the work surface, drop it into the tin, then ease the pastry into the corners and up the sides of the tin, pressing the overhang lightly over the rim. If the pastry has cracked at all, simply press it together to seal. Press the pastry into the flutes of the tin then lightly prick the base with a fork, but not quite all the way through. Place the pastry-lined tin on a baking tray, cover loosely with cling film and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6. 

7. Remove the cling film from the pastry case and line with foil so it supports the sides, then fill with baking beans. Bake blind for 12-15 minutes, until the pastry is set, then lift out the foil and beans. Carefully trim the excess pastry from the sides using a sharp knife, holding the knife at a sharp angle and slicing away from you. Remove the trimmings from the sheet. Return the empty pastry case to the oven for another 10-12 minutes or until it is pale golden and completely dry. Set aside to cool while you make the filling. Reduce the oven temperature to 170C/325F/Gas 3

Citron Filling Method:

1. Break the eggs into a large bowl and whisk together with a wire whisk. Add the rest of the filling ingredients and whisk again until they are all well combined. Pour the filling mixture into a jug, then into the cooled baked pastry case. To prevent it spilling as it goes in the oven, pour in most of the filling so it almost fills the tart, carefully sit the baking sheet and tart on the oven shelf, then top up with the rest of the filling to completely fill it. 

2. Bake for about 30-35 minutes or until just set but with a slight wobble in the centre. 

3. Leave to cool slightly then, when the pastry seems firm enough, remove the tart from the tin. The easiest way to do this is to place the base of the tin on an upturned can or jam jar and let the outer ring fall to the work surface. Transfer the tart to a serving plate and serve warm or cold, dusted with sifted icing sugar.

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Monday, 18 August 2014

Chamomile & Oatmeal Facial Scrub

Inflamed facial skin? Want a deep cleanse which is gentle on the skin? Try and make your own Chamomile & Oatmeal Facial Scrub with this recipe.

Benefits of Chamomile & Oatmeal Facial Scrub: calms skin, exfoliates for deep cleansing.For all skin types

Chamomile & Oatmeal Facial Scrub Ingredients:

1/4 cup chamomile tea (brewed and cooled to room temp)
1/4 cup oatmeal (lightly ground)
2 tbsp honey
2 drops of almond oil

Chamomile & Oatmeal Facial Scrub Method:

Combine the ingredients. Rub over face and neck gently but still with enough pressure to exfoliate the skin. For deep cleansing, leave the scrub on to create a mask, or simply wash off with warm water and pat dry. Moisturise if required.

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Sunday, 17 August 2014

What to know when travelling to Morocco

I had the most excellent time when I spent 2 weeks travelling round Morocco. Whilst on my travels, I wrote a travel diary which I will publish shortly. Here are some of the practical things I learned on my trip in Morocco:

1. When's the best time to go to Morocco?

Weather plays a big part on when deciding the best time to go on holiday. The peak tourist season in Morocco is July and August. If you want to avoid the crowds and the heat, travel before or after this time. During the winter months, from November to March, it can get quite cold and rainy especially in the Atlas mountains. I went in January and found the air to be fresh. Experiencing driving through the Atlas mountains with gushes of rain water crossing the roads was an experience I will never forget. Avoid the desert in the summer months and watch out for sandstorms in February to April.

2. Do I need a visa when visiting Morocco?

Most nationalities including those from the US, Canada and the UK do not need a visa to enter Morocco as a tourist. Like with many other countries your passport must be valid for at least six months after you enter Morocco. You will get a stamp in your passport upon entry into the country (make sure you get it) which will allow you to stay for 90 days. No entry fees are charged.

3. What immunisations do I need when travelling to Morocco?

No vaccinations are required by law to enter Morocco but my doctor did recommend Typhoid and Hepatitis A which I did take. It is also a good idea to be up to date with your polio and tetanus vaccines as you never really do know what you will encounter.

4. Women Travelling in Morocco, including single travellers

Morocco is an Islamic country so it’s advisable to be modest in what you wear. No short skirts, shorts or tank tops. Wear a bikini or swimsuit only at a pool or on a beach. You'll attract male attention regardless what you wear, just ignore it and move on, most of it is harmless. I did have a number of men who thought it their right to touch my waist or arm but it was mostly in Marrakech. I firmly but politely requested they removed their hand which they all eventually did. I even wore a small gold ring on my wedding ring finger as a preventative measure since I was travelling alone. I am not sure if I would have got more attention if I hadn’t been wearing one though. Of course it didn’t help me being blonde but I tied it back with a headband/scarf most of the time. One thing I did find in Morocco is that the people were very welcoming and generous and even though I was alone I never felt I was ever in any serious danger.

5. Can I drink the tap water in Morocco?

Tap water should not be drunk. Bottled water is the way to go and is available all over. Make sure that when you order bottled water at a restaurant they open it in front of you. Also be careful what you eat and try to avoid street vendors.

6. What foreign currency do they use in Morocco?

The currency used in Morocco is the dirham which is divided into 100 centimes. I found there to be ATM's throughout Morocco in all of the major cities and most towns. Credit cards are accepted at most of the higher end hotels, restaurants and shops. You can change money and travellers cheques at all major banks, bureau de change and at some of the larger hotels.

7. What is the best way of travelling round Morocco?

Before you arrive at your destination, especially in touristy towns like Marrakech and Fes, you are quite likely to have unofficial tour guides offering you ‘guides’ and offering you to stay at their hotel saying that your hotel is booked up. No matter how persuasive people may be, don't believe everything you hear and stick to your original plans.
Train is a really great way of getting around. There are train lines between the main cities and towns and train tickets are very reasonably priced. You have to pay for your tickets at the train station in cash so make sure you have your cash to hand. Also, it's wise to know the approximate time of your arrival because stations are not well sign posted and the conductor is barely audible when he announces the trains arrival. If you bring your own food for the journey it's courteous to, offer some to your fellow passengers (unless they're fasting during Ramadan of course).

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Friday, 15 August 2014

Top 3 tips to reduce everyday pressures

It seems more and more women are feeling more exhausted and anxious than before. We seem to be cramming more and more into our modern lives and the use of modern technologies seem to hinder rather than help; it just means we can do more in more places. Women are being pulled in so many different directions, often reduced to lying in order just to get some time to ourselves. 
Image from: Health Culture Society

Working pressures of the modern day

More and more companies now provide flexible working hours and job shares which on one hand is great. This has also stretched out the working week for other colleagues work emails come in from colleagues working 8am-4pm to 10am-6pm  With the continual impatience of colleagues expecting a nearly rapid response a day at the office becomes 8am-6pm. Often with a new job a laptop and blackberry is provided making it not as easy to step away from the office as it once was. The line between work and play has merged more over the years. Work often invades our private lives with many of us feeling pressure to put work first before spending times with loved ones or on yourself.

How switched off are you?

But it's not work which affects us being able to relax. We're now being constantly bombarded with emails, texts and messages from others. Unless we turn off our machines, we're always on chronic alert. No matter how much we want to switch off, it's more difficult to do than you initially think. Do you switch your phone off when at the cinema or do you put it on silent?  

Make time for yourself

Forget shopping or pampering, try sitting on your own with a guilty pressure of a book, a film or a forgotten album. Find some balance in your life. Women have been programmed over the generations to measure their own self-esteem through the valuations of others.  

More stress reducing tips including link between stress and hair loss

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Where are you going o your next City Break?

City breaks are a great way of taking time out of the daily grind. They provide an opportunity to explore a new place and do something out of the norm. If you are considering taking a city break anytime soon then why not try a more unusual country rather than the well beaten tourist trails of Paris, Amsterdam and Rome? The less well-visited destinations are often priced a little cheaper than their better-known counterparts and money exchange their respective currencies – like the Forint in Hungary for example - may work out well for British travellers. 

Budapest, Hungary

Budapest, capital of Hungary, is in fact two distinct areas: Buda and Pest. Split by the great river Danube, each side of the city has different characteristics. Buda is rather hilly, with a peaceful vibe that is perfect for a romantic trip away; whilst Pest is the more cosmopolitan area packed with trendy bars, shops and restaurants. Must-see historic attractions include Budapest Cathedral, the Castle, Royal Palace and State Opera House. This city is perfect for budget city breaks due to the prices for accommodation, food and drink, and Budapest has even been rated the ‘most affordable European city’. Make it easy on yourself and find the best deals on hotels in Budapest.

Reykjavik, Iceland 

Reykjavik is a charming city break destination with bags to offer visitors. From the dramatic, mountainous landscape to the modernity of the city and the serenity of the ocean, there is plenty of beauty to feast your eyes upon. The capital of Iceland has an unusually vibrant artistic community, so there are always lots of exhibitions and theatrical performances to keep you entertained.This city isn't known for being best value for money. The big savers when it comes to Hotels in Reykjavik are found with a little know-how.

Krakow, Poland 

To experience a true medieval city, visit Krakow. As a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the city’s buildings were surprisingly left relatively unscathed by WW2 bombing, and they will leave you spellbound by their beauty. There is a magical tranquillity here, where you can spend each day meandering through the cobbled streets discovering something new; a little chapel here, a magnificent royal castle there. With savings you would make with budget airlines flying into Krakow why not splash a little cash on a 4-5* hotel and make this a trip worth writing about. That’s just a taste of the range of unusual cities in Europe. Others you might want to consider include the stunning Swiss capital of Bern and Dubrovnik with its historic legacy and stunning geological features.  

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